Here we go again.
The Boston fans are excited about it, because they view the Larry O'Brien Trophy as their birthright.
The Lakers and their fans are excited, because they’ve got revenge in their eyes. Last time around, two years ago, Boston got its 17th title by beating the Lakers up and beating them badly. The 39-point capper was a beatdown of historic proportions.
Winning the championship last year against Orlando didn't completely erase the sting of that humiliation. Surely, a win over the Celtics would soothe that blister.
So, who gets the last laugh?
Let's take a closer look at the participants.
Kobe Bryant is either the NBA's best or second-best player. But he's definitely the best player in these Finals.
Kevin Garnett isn't one of those veterans who finally gets his first championship ring, then coasts. He'll fight tooth-and-nail to cement his legacy with a second.
Derek Fisher has a history of coming through just when the Lakers need him. He's not a superstar, but he will hit a clutch shot from time to time.
Rajon Rondo has pushed his game to a new level, as several Eastern Conference foes will tell you. If he gets on a tear, Bryant may spend more energy than he wants to at the defensive end, which could affect his shooting prowess.
One reason Lakerland is optimistic that the 2010 Finals will have a different outcome is that Trevor Ariza has been replaced in Los Angeles by defensive genius Ron Artest. The Artest situation has worked about as well as Coach Phil Jackson could have expected. His shutdown defense more than makes up for his erratic shooting at times.
Paul Pierce (19.1 points/game in the playoffs) will provide a tougher challenge than many of Artest's assignments this season, but Artest will be looking to let the world know how good is "D" really is.
Edge: Lakers (just barely)
Andrew Bynum wasn't available during the 2008 Finals. He's hurt, not injured this year. He'll give some quality minutes, but won't be the difference-maker his team hopes he will be.
Kendrick Perkins will probably use his defensive skills where needed. He'll make Bynum a non-factor and limit Pau Gasol's effectiveness when he gets that assignment.
Ray Allen (20.5 career scoring average, 9 all-star games) is a star. Is he a superstar if he wins his second ring? He'd love to make that discussion relevant.
Gasol would much rather be No. 2 in Los Angeles than No. 1 in Memphis. It's simple: Gasol will be a force when Bynum is in the game and/or Perkins is on the bench. Otherwise, he'll work hard for whatever he gets.
A number of useful guys on both teams. Lamar Odom of the Lakers is the best individual, but the Celtics have better depth, including the suddenly reliable Nate Robinson and the ring-owning Rasheed Wallace.
Do I really need to explain any further?
The Celtics have collected a number of road wins during these playoffs, while the Lakers are unbeaten at home. I say each team will win once on the other coast. But four games are at the office supply cupboard.
This is gonna be good. Possibly the best of these teams' dozen Finals meetings. Expect an overtime, some comments about officiating and nonstop office conversations on what might happen next.
At the end of a close Game 7, MVP Bryant will grip the trophy in victory, but exhaustion will be the order of the day. He'll have at least one48-minute game.
Anybody else excited about a possible 2011 rubber match?